Kirtland AFB Discharge Permit (DP) #1770

August 18, 2015 Groundwater Water Quality Bureau Notice

September 11, 2015


The following undersigned Non-governmental organizations, civic groups and individuals hereby request that pursuant to NMAC (K) and 40 CFR 270.42(b)(6)(i)(C)(1) and (2) a public hearing be granted for the August 18, 2015 Kirtland AFB Discharge Permit (DP) #1770 application as a matter of substantial public interest.




The KAFB jet fuel contamination has been described as the most serious threat to drinking water in New Mexico and as the largest threat to an aquifer in the history of the United States.1 Estimates of the size of the spill of jet fuel and aviation gasoline have ranged as high as 24,000,000 gallons (William Moats NMED). Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) from the KAFB aviation gas contamination has traveled off base beneath homes and businesses of Albuquerque residents and threatens municipal wells with contamination.


The public interest is in seeing remediation proceed in a rapid and cost effective manner and prevent EDB from entering city municipal water supplies.2 3 A public hearing for Discharge Permit (DP) #1770 is necessary to consider concerns for public health and environmental consequences that may result from the annual discharge of more than 630 million gallons of treated water containing the carcinogen Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) along with other toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and metals. Whether the discharge will facilitate or interfere with the widespread, deep contamination from EDB and other hydrocarbons is also at issue. EDB can be toxic in amounts less than the EPA Maximum Contaminant Limit of 50 parts per trillion. A concern exists whether the discharges may cause the remobilization of other pre-existing radioactive and chemical contamination at Kirtland AFB.


The Discharge Permit does not provide a risk assessment for EDB exposure of persons living and working at KAFB. What are potential human health consequences?


EPA states that “EDB is extremely toxic to humans.” 4 One questions the safety of the discharge and disposal of billions of gallons of waste water contaminated with EDB on the grounds of Kirtland base housing, parks and recreational areas where there can be exposure to military personnel, families and children. What provision is there for environmental monitoring of these areas and monitoring the health of persons living there? Will there be monitoring for health effects on children at base housing from the irrigation use of EDB water that can contain up to 50 ppt EDB? Children are more susceptible to health effects from pollution.5


It has been known for 30 years that there is no threshold for the carcinogenic effects of EDB. In 1985, the California Air Resources Board recommended the listing of “EDB as a toxic air contaminant having no threshold level.” 6 EDB can cause cancer through oral, dermal, and inhalation routes.7 Ethylene Dibromide is carcinogenic and can cause disease at levels below the EPA Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) of 50 ppt.


Under the DP#1770 permit, the discharge of treated waste water can contain levels of EDB below the EPA MCL. Discharge can continue for at least ten years and perhaps longer as needed. Discharge may increase if pump and treat is selected as a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) remedy and more extraction wells are installed. EDB is persistent in soil for decades. Is there a potential for soil buildup and exposure even though the treated wastewater is below the MCL for EDB? What is the potential for dermal contact? 8 EDB is somewhat volatile raising the potential hazard for respiratory exposure for persons at KAFB?9


Uncertain characterization of the EDB plume and amounts for discharge


The August 2015 NMED/KAFB presented that the single extraction well installed off the base pumped 1.1 million gallons of water and removed a miniscule 2/3 gram (628 milligrams) of ethylene dibromide (EDB). Every gallon of aviation gas leaked from KAFB pipelines had approximately 2 gm of EDB, sufficient to contaminant approximately 13,000,000 gallons of water above the MCL. Thus, given the current pumping volume, it would seem to require about 3.3 million gallons of water to remove the 2 grams of EDB contained in one gallon of aviation gas. Given the possibility that millions of gallons of aviation gas were leaked, where will the billions of gallons of water from pump and treat technology be disposed?


The actual amounts of fuel remaining in the vadose zone, floating on the groundwater, and submerged in the groundwater are unknown at present. Many data gaps about the jet fuel plume caused the withdrawal of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Facility Investigations (RFI) for the Vadose Zone and the Groundwater. The RFIs are necessary for information to consider appropriate remedies for the fuel spill.


What is known is that the plume of water contaminated with Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) is at least 7,000 ft long by 1,250 ft wide. The EDB plume is traveling toward municipal drinking water wells that serve Albuquerque, NM. EDB was detected in two newly installed groundwater monitoring wells (KAFB-106225 and KAFB-106226) at concentrations nearly double the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL). Thus, the full northerly extent of the EDB plume still has not been calculated. 10


The effect of surface discharge of water contaminated with EDB and toxic metals has not been considered in relation to increased storm water discharge to Albuquerque’s storm sewer system. The consideration of responsibility for how EDB discharges will be accomplished and the discharge system will be maintained is unclear.


Storm Water drainage from most of the base flows into Tijeras Arroyo, which flows into the Rio Grande. Storm water from the Kirtland Family Housing area which is located within the MS4 permit area (City of Albuquerque urbanized area) drains directly into the City of Albuquerque’s storm sewer system. The Kirtland Family Housing area is situated on land owned by the United States Air Force, however, a private contractor operates the housing area and owns the houses and associated support buildings. Additionally, the private contractor is responsible for roads and grounds maintenance which includes maintenance of the storm sewer system within the housing area.


There are numerous activities that occur on Kirtland AFB including both industrial-type activities as well as the housing of military personnel. These activities, including the housing of dogs and horses (existing horse stable on Kirtland AFB is outside of the City of Albuquerque urbanized area), operation of septic tanks, and potential breaks in the sanitary sewer lines and sanitary sewer overflows, could contribute fecal coliform contamination to storm water discharges from the Base.

Source: p.6-7


Commitment to pump and treat technology without meeting RCRA requirements – DP#1770 fails to acknowledge RCRA requirements.


The discharge permit appears to circumvent RCRA requirements for public participation. The interim measure of pump and treat appears to be receiving a huge commitment of technology and money while leaving behind the prerequisite RCRA procedures for a site conceptual plan, plume characterization, the RCRA Facility Investigation, Corrective Measures Study and Corrective Measures Implementation Plan.


There is commitment to the pump and treat technology without full details about the geologic complexity of the area for the extraction wells, the tendency of contaminants to absorb to soil materials, appropriate consideration of how the cleanup levels will be achieved, and full discussion of how discharge water will be distributed. While no remedy or combination of remedies have been chosen as final for the remediation of the KAFB fuel spill, the interim measure of the technology of pump and treat is being used.


Attachment B-5 to the permit application describes the pump and treat system as a “permanent” system, although that determination has yet to be made under RCRA. Numerous issues raised in the various conditions of B-5 are not resolved:

  • Condition 2 – Reduction of winter discharge to the Golf Course Pond is unknown.

  • Condition 4 – No Operations and Maintenance plan for either the temporary or the permanent treatment system.

  • Condition 5 – The permanent Operations and Maintenance plan including a sampling and analysis plan will not be submitted until after the date that public comments are due.

  • Condition 7—the Basis of Design (BOD) Plan does not include the amount of discharge to the Golf Course Pond as a permanent system before approval of the application is granted. The attached BOD plan only refers to construction for one extraction well and does not relate to the larger interim plan that is to become permanent.

  • Condition 8 – none of the items a-n are currently provided for public review although the intent of this application is clearly to approve a permanent system.


Without the optimal characterization of the geology, hydrology and chemical properties of the remediation/extraction zone, there can be no dynamic management of the extraction well field. That this has not been accomplished is evident because the locations for the additional extraction wells have not been determined. The locations for the proposed extraction wells KAFB 106233 and KAFB 106234 and seven others have not yet been determined.


The number of extraction wells that were announced to the public for the RCRA interim measure was “up to eight extraction wells.” Section 2. Strategy


The discharge permit (Section B.2) now states that there will be 10 extraction wells operating an estimated ten years, without discussion in RCRA meetings for more than eight extraction wells. While an expansion of the number of extraction wells may be welcome, the Discharge Permit and the RCRA process are at odds with respect to public expectations and any consideration for the ultimate number of extraction wells and their management.


Uncertainty for discharge locations, associated discharge volumes and potential for adverse environmental consequences


On August 18, 2015, KAFB applied for a discharge permit to spread up to 1,728,000 gallons per day (630,720,000 gallons per year) of water contaminated with EDB, petroleum hydrocarbons and metals at “potential,” but indefinitely described locations on KAFB. Pump and treat technology can remobilize contaminants under certain circumstances.


So-called “beneficial uses” for disposal of the treated water are vague other than that KAFB contaminated the water and wants to dispose of it on KAFB property. There is no assurance in the application that the water will only be disposed of on KAFB, not on city properties – parks, median strips, roadsides, etc.


Kirtland AFB submitted two earlier and very different Discharge Permit applications on April 24, 2014 and October 30, 2014 that are numbered the same -- DP#1770 -- as this October 18, 2015 application.


The three permit applications are substantially different in their terms. The current application is to discharge 1,728,000 gallons per day (630,000,000 gallons annually). While addressing the shallow EDB contamination the interim measures are not addressing:

  • removal of the deep EDB contamination,

  • the large remaining contaminant source term of NAPL containing EDB,

  • the EDB trapped in the soil pores,

  • the huge quantities of water that must be removed to reduce contamination to several magnitude below the EPA MCL of 50 parts per trillion.


The Interim Measures plan presented estimates for the installation of eight extraction wells to pump a maximum of 100 gallons per minute. That would amount to 800 X 1440 (minutes per day) = 1,152,000 gallons per day = 420,480,000 gallons annually. The October 18, 2015 application does not explain the reason for the sudden jump in increase in the volume of water that will be pumped from unidentified extraction wells in combination with wells KAFB 106233 and KAFB 106234 to justify the discharge and dispersion of 1,728,000 gallons per day.


The current 8/18/15 discharge application indicates a four to twelve fold jump for commitment to pump and treat from the earlier 4/24/2014 and 10/30/2014 applications, respectively. The proposed permit discharge volumes have varied from 144,000 gpd (10/30/2014), 432,000 gallons per day (4/24/2014) to 1,728,000 gpd (8/18/15).


Unexplained differences in the applications for how the water will be discharged:

  • 4/24/2014 draft - the use of 88 injection wells.

  • The 10/30/2014 public notice abandoned injection but authorized treated ground water into an “infiltration gallery.”

  • 8/18/15 application -- Potential discharge sites of treated water includes the Golf Course Main Pond, up to two Class V dry injection wells, infiltration galleries, and KAFB-3 gray water tank to be used for irrigation around base housing.


The appropriateness of the increase discharge and how the discharge will actually be dispersed has not been fully presented to the public during the course of KAFB RCRA meetings for the fuel spill or by the application.


Classification V for the proposed injection wells is inappropriate since the wastes may migrate in the foreseeable future exceeding standards for human health. What database supported the change by Kirtland AFB from the 2014 discharge permit application plans for 88 injection wells to the 8/18/15 plan for two Class V dry injection wells? Does KAFB still plan to install 88 injection wells? The injection wells are indicated for location in a general area that is part of the groundwater serving Albuquerque. Will the injection wells be at a depth where water contaminated with the toxic chemical EDB and heavy metals can still migrate into and threaten the groundwater that serves as Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer? What depth would be necessary for the injection wells to avoid that problem?


The Topographic Maps presented in the 8/18/25 application do not show the location of water to be discharged at:

  • Infiltration galleries

  • Base housing areas to be used for irrigation


The application does not describe the amount of water to be disposed of at:

  • Infiltration galleries

  • Base housing areas to be used for irrigation

  • Dry injection wells


The percolation rates for the injection wells and the infiltration gallery are not described with any specificity. Discharge to infiltration galleries has not been evaluated for infiltration rates in relation to their proximity near the Golf Course Pond and irrigation of the Golf Course.

The Golf Course Pond (GCP) is not adequately described. What is the holding capacity of the GCP? What are effects of discharge water on the GCP liner? What is the age of the liner and considerations for replacement?


What is the infiltration rate for the Golf Course (GC) on a seasonal basis? What is the course for travel of water from the GC? Will the GCP discharge be near to or affect any existing plumes of contamination with remobilization? What is the maximum amount of water that can be discharged to the GC on an annual basis and considering seasonal discharges? What monitoring will be provided for levels of contamination in the GC? What is the effect of percolation from the GC on the infiltration galleries to be placed near the GC?


What monitoring will be provided for the vadose zone in the discharge areas?


Too little is known about the effects of discharges into the groundwater at KAFB to justify allowing increases in them. Infiltration galleries that may be placed adjacent to the GCP are not adequately described for the number of galleries, size, depth, ability to absorb water and the effect of the GCP percolation on the galleries. No locations for groundwater monitoring wells for discharge water quality near the discharge locations are provided. (B.13) Well logs and soil boring logs are missing. (B.14). The discharges will be into both navigable waters of the United States and into the drinking water aquifer for Albuquerque. Whether water contaminated with EDB and heavy metals will migrate to springs at KAFB is not discussed.


Section B.15. Inspection procedures and frequencies are not provided for conveyance piping, injection wells, Groundwater Treatment Site, and infiltration galleries.


Section B.16. There is no provision for shut down of the extraction well system in the event of failure of the Groundwater treatment system and an overflow condition. Secondary containment volume of 10,000 gallons may be inadequate. Timely notification of NMED during emergency conditions is not provided for.


City water extraction without compensation


No explanation is provided to explain how the pumping of extraction wells on the City of Albuquerque property will not increase the limit to KAFB allowable groundwater diversion by utilizing the water resource of the City of Albuquerque. KAFB must set forth the current water usage of the base and how that usage may be offset by extraction of the city water resource. KAFB has contaminated Albuquerque’s water with EDB and that contaminated water is now unavailable to the city for use.


A dollar rate should be considered for KAFB extraction of the city’s groundwater with consideration for offset of loss of city water. The water had value until KAFB contaminated it with EDB. The city should not have to absorb the loss. The projected interim (more or less) ten year extraction of city water could amount to more than 6.3 billion gallons. What is the financial value of that water given the planned residential developments for the city and Bernalillo County? Some estimate for the volume of water to be dispersed should be made if Pump and treat is chosen as a final remedy with expansion in the number of extraction wells.


The projected ten year period for groundwater extraction should be explained as to how that qualifies as an interim measure under the RCRA rather than as a major commitment of funds and resources that prematurely locks in the pump and treat remedy.


Public health and safety and protection of the environment require a public hearing for DP#1770.


There is a high level of public concern for the threat to Albuquerque’s municipal drinking water wells as shown by:11

  • The House Senate Joint Memorial 13 (Submitted by Citizen Action) was passed by the 2014 NM Legislature. HSM 13 asked that an independent scientific task force be established to advise for short term emergency and long-term measures for the cleanup of the jet fuel and Ethylene Dibromide plume of contamination.

  • Approval of Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Resolution R-12-14 for emergency measures, monitoring wells, evaluation of wellhead treatment, LNAPL containment, remediation technology for soil and aquifer. (Submitted by Citizen Action).

  • Water Utility Authority Resolution R-14-11 – to not allow EDB to enter potable water system at any detectable level (Submitted by Citizen Action).

  • Numerous articles and editorials in the news media regarding the KAFB fuel spill.


The requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) have not been met for full characterization of the 7000 ft. by 1250 ft. EDB plume. Estimates of the volume of the jet fuel spill is off by a factor of four as being somewhere between 6,000,000 and 24,000,000 gallons. So clearly there is a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the size of the problem – the volume of contamination and what will be necessary for remediation in terms of permitting needs. It is not understood how much water will be necessary to discharge from pump and treat operations to remove the massive volumes of water contaminated by Ethylene Dibromide. EDB trapped in the interstitial soil pores will continue to leak into the groundwater for decades. There is a strong need for the independent type of review that could be provided by the National Research Council.


A major problem for the Kirtland AFB jet fuel and aviation gas contamination is that there still is no overall plan (conceptual site plan) for investigation and remediation of the carcinogenic plume of EDB.An appropriate remediation plan for removal of the dissolved EDB has not been designed due to “data gaps” and lack of a site conceptual model. The RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) that was to accomplish the fact finding necessary for remedy design has not been accomplished.12 The two RFIs that Kirtland AFB submitted for both the vadose zone and the aquifer were so flawed by “data gaps” that thousands of pages constituting both the entire RFIs were withdrawn by the Air Force. DP#1770 does not take into account the RCRA requirements, as it must.

There is the need to complete the RFIs and move on to the Corrective Measures Study (CMS) and a Corrective Measures Implementation Plan (CMI) with full public input at each stage. The DP#1770 jumps the gun on the RCRA requirements by putting in place a decision that lacks sufficient data to be imposed as part of an interim or final remedy.

DP#1770 did not meet the requirements for public notice and participation required by NMAC

The KAFB ST-106 fuel spill is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The requirements for RCRA public notice and participation (40 CFR 124) should be considered in addition to the NMAC section since the Discharge Permit is actually also modifying the Kirtland AFB facility’s RCRA permit by facilitating and adopting an interim measure. See 40 CFR 270.42 (52 FR 35838, September 23, 1987) and the part 124 changes in the "RCRA Expanded Public Participation" rule (60 FR 63417-34, December 11, 1995) ,

p. 4-11Required Activities When corrective action is proceeding under a RCRA permit, the permit may identify specific interim measures and/or stabilization measures (if they are known at the time of permit issuance) or may have general conditions that govern when interim measures might be required during the course of the corrective action. In either case, the public can comment on the interim measures strategy in the draft permit as part of the permitting process.

P. 4-14 and 15When corrective action is proceeding under a 3008(h) order, the Agency’s longstanding policy is that the public’s opportunity to review and comment on tentatively-selected remedies should be commensurate with the opportunity that would be available if the corrective action were conducted under a permit. At a minimum, this opportunity should include: publishing a notice and a brief analysis of the tentatively-selected remedy (this is typically referred to as a statement of basis) and making supporting information available; providing a reasonable opportunity for submission of written comments; holding a public hearing or public meeting, if requested by the public or determined necessary by the overseeing agency; preparing and publishing responses to comments; and, publishing the final remedy decision and making supporting information available. Additional guidance is available in OSWER Directives 9901.3, Guidance for Public Involvement in RCRA Section 3008(h) Actions (May 5, 1987) and 9902.6 RCRA Corrective Action Decision Documents: The Statement of Basis and response to Comments (April 29, 1991).

The 8/18/2015 Groundwater Discharge Permit Application with its pertinent documents has not been posted on the GWQB or the KAFB websites.

There appears to be no Affidavit of Public Notice Completion for the 8/18/2015 permit application filed by Kirtland AFB. No Administrative Completeness Determination was made by the NMED that is a prerequisite for approval of the 8/18/2015 DP#1770 application.

The DP#1770 application does not satisfy the minimal application requirements of NMAC Section (C) and constitute issues for a public hearing.

NMAC Section (C) requires

A proposed discharge plan shall set forth in detail the methods or techniques the discharger proposes to use or processes expected to naturally occur which will ensure compliance with this Part. At least the following information shall be included in the plan:

(1) Quantity, quality and flow characteristics of the discharge;

(2) Location of the discharge and of any bodies of water, watercourses and ground water discharge sites within one mile of the outside perimeter of the discharge site, and existing or proposed wells to be used for monitoring;

(3) Depth to and TDS concentration of the ground water most likely to be affected by the discharge;

(4) Flooding potential of the site;

(5) Location and design of site(s) and method(s) to be available for sampling, and for measurement or calculation of flow;

(6) Depth to and lithological description of rock at base of alluvium below the discharge site if such information is available;

(7) Any additional information that may be necessary to demonstrate that the discharge permit will not result in concentrations in excess of the standards of Section NMAC or the presence of any toxic pollutant at any place of withdrawal of water for present or reasonably foreseeable future use. Detailed information on site geologic and hydrologic conditions may be required for a technical evaluation of the applicant's proposed discharge plan; and

(8) Additional detailed information required for a technical evaluation of underground injection control wells as provided in Sections through 20.6.2. 5299 NMAC. 

Citizen Action and the public have raised concerns regarding the possibility of further spreading of environmental contaminants from surface dispersion and use of injection wells for waste water from pump and treat operations.

There are questions that have been raised at Kirtland AFB meetings by Citizen Action and the public about discharge water at RCRA meetings. The questions remain unanswered. The Air Force dismantled the Citizen Advisory Board and earlier records of citizen inquiries expressed at public meetings were not kept.

Technical questions and concerns raised by the public are appropriate for a public hearing for DP#1770:

  • The number of extraction wells and the associated water treatment discharge volumes necessary to halt the forward movement of EDB to Albuquerque’s municipal wells;

  • Identification of all discharge locations with detailed geology and hydrology;

  • infiltration rates for wastewater at the discharge locations;

  • the volumes of waste water to be discharged;

  • the absence of a baseline for groundwater quality in the areas for discharge, the effect on water quality, and monitoring of changes;

  • the potential for further spreading of pre-existing toxic chemicals and radionuclides at Kirtland AFB;

  • whether discharges will take place in areas such as roads, median strips, public parks, golf courses or other locations used by persons, including children;i

  • what discharge methods will be used i.e., retention pond, sprinkler systems;

  • what are the potential effects for human health and environment from discharge; volatilization, skin exposure and breathing EDB and other chemicals at any discharge locations;

  • what beneficial uses of the water might be available;

  • what database exists for determining locations for extraction wells?


New Mexico lacks an approved National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) authority. The DP#1770 application is not the functional equivalent of a RCRA or a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) examination of the human health and environmental issues.




The Public Hearing request should be GRANTED.


David B. McCoy, Executive Director

Citizen Action New Mexico

POB 4276

Albuquerque, NM 87196-4276

505 262-1862

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Allen Cooper
1305 Edith NE
Albuquerque NM  87102
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3 ABCWUA Resolution R-14-11 “Section 3. The Water Authority will not allow EDB contaminated water at any level to enter the potable drinking water system.”

5 Executive Order 12866

6 Report on Ethylene Dibromide to the Scientific Review Panel (April 1985)

7 HEALTH EFFECTS OF ETHYLENE DIBROMIDE (EDB) Prepared by The Epidemiological Studies Section Department of Health Services 2151 Berkeley Way, Room 515 Berkeley, California 94704, April 15, 1985.

8 Skin contact with EDB was found to produce chemical burns as well as systemic effects from percutaneous absorption.

9 -- Inhalation studies with rats and mice at ethylene dibromide concentrations below the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 20 ppm demonstrated a carcinogenic risk.

10 Kirtland AFB BFF Q1, 2015 Quarterly Monitoring & Site Investigation Report KAFB-015-0022c, p. ES-3 and Section (January – March 2015)

12 See also, -- In an Aug. 27 letter to the New Mexico Environment Department, base commander Col. Tom Miller asked to formally withdraw thousands of pages of reports on the Kirtland Air Force Base leak that the Air Force submitted to state regulators in March, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

i Executive Order (E.O.) 13045 - Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks